In Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy, Michael Hardt gives us four “methodological principles” for reading the work of Gilles Deleuze.
1. “Recognise the object and the terms of the primary antagonism.” Every philosophical project is aimed at someone, or at a group of people. Deleuze’s early work is aimed at Hegel and Hegelians. If we ignore this when we read Deleuze’s early work, we miss the point of what he’s writing.
2. “Read Deleuze philosophically.” Although Deleuze often seems to be an “anti-philosopher”, it’s important to remember that Deleuze considered himself to be a philosopher, working with (if not fully in) the philosophical tradition.
3. “Recognise Deleuze’s selectivity.” Many of Deleuze’s books focus on one particular philosopher, for example Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche . . . But when Deleuze writes about a philosopher he has a specific problem (and target, see 1) in mind. This means he isn’t trying to give a conclusive study of the philosopher he’s writing about, but just to use that philosopher’s work in order to solve the problem. We do Deleuze an injustice if we attack him because he fails to discuss this or that aspect of a philosopher’s work, if that aspect is irrelevant to Deleuze’s problem.
4. “Read Deleuze’s thought as an evolution.” Finally, we need to notice that each of Deleuze’s works builds upon the previous works. Though it can be fruitful to “start in the middle” with Deleuze, elements of Deleuze’s work will remain obscure if we don’t go back to earlier work to find the explanation of key terms.
Hardt’s methodology is designed to help us keep in mind why Deleuze wrote and how he worked. Hardt tells us that, in his early work, Deleuze is trying to take on Hegelianism and show us how it is possible to be anti-Hegelian. Deleuze is trying to create new “terrain”, away from Hegel, in which it’s possible to create new concepts. Keeping Hardt’s methodology in mind as we read we’ll be able to decide whether or not Deleuze succeeds in his task.